Ah, science! Yesterday was copepod collection day, which is my favorite part of my new job. I have gone out on the boat three times since I've been here, and this was the best trip by far. Why was it so great, you ask? Well, this was no ordinary collection day. No, this time, everyone got to come out to see how to gather the little guys. The crew included our fearless copepod collecting veteran, Kyle (a grad student, not Dr. H), Anna, our German banana, Jenn, our summer undergrad, and me. We met at 8am sharp, and drove over the Pali to Kaneohe Bay, which is on the Windward side of the island. Kaneohe Bay is home to numerous copepod species as well as other zooplankton, and our mission was to find a particular type, the Undinula. The bay is huge, but we were meeting our boat captain, Fritz, at the end of the Hawaii Institute for Marine Biology (HIMB) pier. The boats leaving from the pier are the only way to get to Coconut Island, the home of HIMB. The picture above shows the pier that I drive my car across to meet Fritz (it is terrifying) and the tip of Coconut on the right.
We loaded up the gear, and we were off on our adventure. Our first plankton tow in 45' of water somewhere north of the sandbar. Let me back up a step: to catch the copepods, we drop nets with cod ends into the water and tow them behind the boat as we slowly move forward at about 2mph. Any plankton that happens to get drawn into the net will siphon down into the cod end and get trapped for us to collect. Here is a picture of our first catch (from L to R: Jenn, Fritz, Kyle, Anna):
Inside that little glass jar (the cod end) are thousands upon thousands of tiny invertebrates: shrimp larva, crab larva, copepods, baby squid, arrow worms, jellyfish, you name it, we found it! We did a total of 6 tows and I ended up getting soaking wet, since our 4th and 5th tows were done at the entrance of the bay with the ocean. The waves there were a bit bigger than the boat, and I was sitting on the front edge, so they came over right onto me! I made Kyle switch places with me on the way back but quickly found out that the waves are only bad when you're going into them. Curses....
It was a lovely time, and I can't wait for our next collection day. Plus, as a bonus, next week the Coast Guard is offering a boat safety class and I am thinking about taking it so I can captain my own copepod collection boat next time. Gone are the days of rearing Manduca moths down the hall in a stuffy culture room (sorry, Suzanne!) Now, I get to go OUT IN THE FIELD to collect my animals! Science = Happiness!?! That's CRAZY!!